How "freshly ground" should black pepper be? Does it make that much difference if it is ground a few days in advance?
I was thinking about this yesterday, while grating a nutmeg. I always grate 3-4 times what I need, and put the rest in a tiny glass jar, to have some for the next time. (I do a lot of baking, so I go through it quickly.) With the holidays coming up, I was wondering if I can grind up a few tablespoons at a time, which I know will be used within a week or so. I realize that it's not that hard to grind pepper, but I'm constantly on the lookout for whatever shortcuts I can find, especially at this time of year. ;o) Thank you, everyone.
P.S. Did you know that if you put a few allspice peppers in your grinder, it produces a lovely, fragrant, more interesting ground pepper? You should lightly crush them first, as most grinders can't handle their size and texture otherwise. I read this tip in one of Edward Behr's books, about 20 years ago. His ratio is 8 pepper to 1 allspice. I go closer to 5:1.
1) antoniajames, do you use the pepper/allspice mix whenever pepper is called for, or only in certain instances?
2) when you grind a large amount of pepper ahead of time, do you use a hand grinder Like one that would sit on your kitchen table) or do you use a spice or coffee grinder?
Ok, I just thought of a third question. Is there a trick to grinding nutmeg? I always feel like I'm going to shred my fingers, or the nutmeg gets dropped or goes flying across the counter.
I don't actually need to grind the powdered milk now that I got a new blender (you blend all the ingredients together in the blender), but I do run powdered milk thru the grinder still when making hot chocolate mix because otherwise I get lumps in my hot chocolate because the "grains" (I'm sure there is a more accurate term but I don't it) of milk don't dissolve easily.
Yes there are aromatics you get right the minute you grind black pepper (and nutmeg), that won't be present 3-4 days or a week later.
But the pepper and nutmeg will still be at a midpoint, better than old stale packaged, and less good than a la minute.
If you're doing a lot of baking or cooking in a short time, to grind a small amount (half cup, say) ahead is maybe worth it for you.
I love your allspice tip. I add Grains of Paradise to pepper - gives it an aromatic, almost floral note and adds a bit more complexity. And the Grains of Paradise are a fantastic spice addition to baked goods too.
If you are going to cook with the pepper, it matters less so you should not fret about grinding your pepper ahead of time.
Personally, I keep the pepper grinder on the kitchen counter.
Note that peppercorns aren't created equal. They are an agricultural crop of numerous cultivars; flavor characteristics and quality vary widely, just like almost any other agricultural crop: apples, cacao (chocolate), coffee beans, wine grapes, et cetera.
There are premium varieties like Kampot (Cambodia) and Tellicherry (India); the mass market grocery store stuff comes from one of the less distinguished growing areas (where crop yields are much higher). Buy a better quality peppercorn and you will be less likely to doctor it with other spices to make up for flavor shortcomings.
I have been pre-grinding my pepper for years. I love it. I have a small Pyrex of ground pepper and one of Diamond kosher salt sitting on my kitchen counter. I absolutely can't tell the difference between the pre-ground to fresh ground in recipes. It's also so much easier to pepper things like whole chickens and roasts using pre-ground. I usually grind about 1/4 cup at a time. I, of course, keep my grinder on the table for times something needs a touch more pepper, but it rarely does. I support your pre-grinding idea 100%.
There's another blend with coriander seed (2 part black, 2 part white, 1 part coriander) called Mignonette or French Canadian which is also lovely.
Then there is Baharat (Arabia, various, & Turkey) which has pepper, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, clove, cumin, paprika. Not normally put in graters, but it would work with cinnamon chips and omitting the paprika. Or adding it later to a dish.